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What Big 12 coaches said about Kyle Whittingham and Utah – Deseret News
What Big 12 coaches said about Kyle Whittingham and Utah – Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — When you talk to coaches across the Big 12, you find that even among those who have never coached against him, there is a certain respect for what Kyle Whittingham has built at Utah.

Entering his 20th season at Utah, Whittingham boasts an impressive record: two BCS bowl victories (one as co-head coach with Urban Meyer in 2004), an undefeated 2008 season that ended with a Sugar Bowl victory over Nick Saban and Alabama, three conference championships (one in the Mountain West and two in the Pac-12), and Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Coach of the Year award in 2008.

Even though questions about his retirement are growing louder after Morgan Scalley was publicly named Utah’s “head coach in waiting,” Whittingham shows no signs of slowing down – just think of the fact that Utah was tipped to win the Big 12 in its first year in the conference.

For Whittingham, this is the third different conference as Utah’s head coach, but there is a certain familiarity as he enters the Big 12.

Utah has played five schools currently in the Big 12 – Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, TCU and BYU – more than five times in the Whittingham era, and Utah has played three other current Big 12 teams with Whittingham at the helm – Iowa State (2010), West Virginia (2017) and Baylor (2023).

Whittingham has coached against five current Big 12 coaches – BYU’s Kalani Sitake, Arizona State’s Kenny Dillingham, Baylor’s Dave Aranda, Colorado’s Deion Sanders and TCU’s Sonny Dykes (while at Cal).

Here’s what six Big 12 coaches – and one player – said about Whittingham and the Utah program at the conference’s media days in Las Vegas.

Arizona coach Brent Brennan:

“I think Kyle Whittingham is one of the best coaches in America and he’s done an incredible job. I don’t know anyone who would say otherwise. Two Rose Bowls in a row. They joined the Pac-12 and have been consistently successful at a high level. That’s pretty cool.”

Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita:

“Really good program. Obviously one of the more consistent programs. Big shout out to coach Whitt, coach Scalley and so on, so it’s nice to be able to move into the new conference with them and as far as my college career goes, we’re 1-1 (against Utah). I’m looking forward to a good showdown in Week 4 in Salt Lake City.”

Baylor coach Dave Aranda:

“Tough, reliable, consistent. When you think about their system and their game, this is an example of that. I think they could be one of the strongest teams in that regard and I think it’s going to be very difficult to play there this year. A very tough test. It’s hard to win there, so we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”

Houston coach Willie Fritz:

“He’s done an incredible job with his consistency. I don’t really know Kyle well, but it seems like (his teams) have taken on his personality a little bit. Tough, tough on his team. He’s done a great job, done a great job recruiting. Very impressed with his career.”

Kansas coach Lance Leipold:

“I don’t really know the coach well, sat next to him at our meetings in May. During his tenure there, of course, you don’t find people who stay in one place and stick it out, but he has built a program that many of us would like to emulate, where there is a certain consistency and continuity among the staff and others.

“They play physical football. They play great defense. They don’t beat themselves. They’re not on our schedule this year, so I can’t say I’m fully committed to them, but it’s a program that you don’t hear anything negative about in the headlines, and it’s again a top-notch opponent, a top-notch coach, a guy that’s going to be in the Hall of Fame someday. A great addition.”

UCF coach Gus Malzahn:

“Kyle is an old-school player. I like watching his teams. … He has to traditionally stop the run and run the ball, and that’s what he does. He’s one of the best in the business. We’re playing him at home in late November. I’m glad we’re playing at home, no doubt about that. I have a lot of respect for him and hope the game will be meaningful.”

West Virginia coach Neal Brown:

“One of the best coaching jobs in the last 15 years, in my opinion. … The question a minute ago was about a league that puts running first. They really brought that to the Pac-12 and were at the top of the league for a really long time.

“I’ve only watched them from afar – never played against Utah – only met the coach at our meetings in May, but it’s a team I’ve always had a lot of respect for because they played so physical football and were so good at defense.”

By Isla